If the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, these chefs have reason to smile, especially on Valentine’s Day. Soma Das invited a few familiar names to recall their favourite V-Day memory, and suggest quirky options to whip up, so you can woo your partner too
Nikhil Chib, owner, Busaba and BusaGo
Chef Nikhil Chib with wife Natasha. Pic Courtesy/Ronny Sequeira
>> My favourite memory: Around 8-9 years ago, during Valentine’s Day in Paris, I felt that my wife (then my girlfriend) Natasha might be in the mood for crepes. I woke up, went to the market to get the ingredients, came back and made crepes in different styles: nutella, suzette and orange flambe. I dished them up, poured champagne in a glass, healthy orange juice in another and served the breakfast in bed; it was a great hit.
>> My take: I prefer making dishes on the morning of Valentine’s Day rather than leaving things pending till the evening as the pressure is less; one is also quicker in the morning. I would suggest serving breakfast in bed as it is seductive and can make a day special. It could be a simple breakfast of sexy figs, strawberries, bread and jam or crepes, orange juice and champagne. You can also serve strawberry and whipped cream or a fluffy cheddar cheese omelette with freshly baked bread. Scrambled eggs with onion and bacon, brioche or multi-grain bread, smoked salmon and eggs benedict are also good options.
Pooja Dhingra, founder, Le15 Patisserie
>> My favourite memory: The most vivid Valentine’s Day memory is from my time in a Paris chocolate shop. My chef decided that we would make the actual human heart in chocolate and sell it with a line that said ‘my heart beats for you’. It was really gross with the arteries and veins popping out. I was surprised that we managed to sell even one!
Molten Chocolate Cake
>> My take: My fool-proof dessert is a Molten Chocolate Cake. Melt 200 gm of dark chocolate with 200 gm of butter. Add 150 gm of sugar. Once cool, break four eggs into this and lastly, fold in 60 gm of flour. Bake in ramekins at 180 degrees C for 7-8 minutes.
Chef Vicky Ratnani, culinary director, F&B Asia
>> My favourite memory: This Valentine’s Day, I will be travelling, so I have planned a surprise lunch for my wife before I leave. An incident I recall is when I prepared a lavish menu for this couple, who later claimed that they were highly allergic to garlic (which is an aphrodisiac and plays an important role in planning Valentine’s Day menus), asparagus (another aphrodisiac) and lactose intolerant. So, I had to scrap all my effort and recreate a special menu keeping in mind their dietary limitations. A dish that I made for them was a non-dairy dark chocolate mousse.
Dark chocolate and strawberries
>> My take: To woo your partner, I would suggest a dessert, which is quick, easy and a delicious fix. All one needs is milk, a good-quality dark chocolate and fresh strawberries. Reduce the milk with a bit of cream, add dark chocolate and leave the creamy chocolate to chill. Take fresh strawberries and pour the chilled chocolate mix on them and garnish with roasted hazelnuts or almonds. Chocolates and strawberries are great aphrodisiac foods and a very delicious combination.
Chef Farrokh Khambatta, owner of Amadeus, Joss and Umame
>> My favourite memory: I can’t pinpoint any particular memory related to Valentine’s Day. However, the occasion is celebrated with special dishes served at my restaurants.
>> My take: Oysters are aphrodisiacal and a great turn on for the palate. You can try serving oysters in various forms such as oyster tartar which has raw oysters and flavoured onion; Oriental oyster, a fresh oyster soup with ginseng; oyster tempura or even oyster shots.
Vijay Rawat, Head Bartender, The White Owl
>> My favourite memory: My favourite memories from Valentine’s Day would have to be at The White Owl where we get a chance to serve guests coming in with their partners and loved ones to celebrate the season of love. Guests often request something special to be created for the occasion and to be able to deliver that and be a part of their special evening is truly memorable.
>> My take: The envy Cocktail. Muddle green apple chunks in a Boston glass, add spiced rum, cinnamon stick and squeeze the lemon wedge in to the shaker. Fill it with lots of ice and shake it vigorously. Pour the cocktail into the rock glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
Chef Ranveer Brar
>> My favourite memory: I have always been a goofball in matters of the heart. An incident that has made Valentine’s Day memorable forever has been my best-ever chocolate cake that I baked for my date. We had been dating for over eight months in the US. After a great dinner, I wanted to surprise her with a chocolate cake that I had baked at my place. I built it up and revealed the cake only to realise (after eight months) that she was allergic to eggs.
A quick-fix salad
>> My take: Salads are the fastest way to people’s hearts. You can also go creative with chocolate fondues served with strawberry skewers and heart-shaped palmiers.